If it’s free, it isn’t for me.

The word FREE with a red X on top of it.

There are several nonprofits and some small businesses out there that have sites that were built for them for free.

STOP DOING THAT!

It’s very rare to find one that is actually serving your mission. I hear ya. “It’s fine”. “It works”. “We don’t have a budget”. “They offered”. “My cousin’s kid needed a portfolio piece to build their web business”. 

Are your constituents able to connect with your services through it? Are your funders able to find out the return on donation? Has it been updated in the last 5 years? 

Most recently heard from a director, “I know it’s ugly but they did it for free so I don’t think I can push them.” 

WRONG!

If you don’t have the money and someone is offering to build it for free - come up with a formal agreement. You have an obligation to serve your constituents. It’s certainly a nice gesture for someone to build your website for free but they need to treat it the same as a paid project. You need to treat it as a paid project. Better yet, find some money to pay for it. Then you won’t feel so bad when you need changes or updates. Besides free is never free.

The other situation that some nonprofits find themselves in is the person that built the website, ghosted. Poof! Nowhere to be found. What do you do then?

If you are going to continue down the free road, here is what you need

You’ll need a yearly budget to pay for your domain, host the site, and adding any necessary additions such as translation. If you sell items then it is more expensive.

So let’s say that is a minimum of $500 per year for your basic website. That’s so little money to have control over your site. If you are doing e-commerce then it would be more.

If you hire someone to build it, which you should, make sure it includes;

  • Either - training for an in-house person to update. Not an intern. Interns leave.
  • Or - budget to do quarterly updates/maintenance
  • Reporting - such as Google data studio
  • Analytics - Google Analytics, Google Search Console
  • And you have control of the admin logins.

Make sure you sign up for all the social media accounts you can. You want to have control of your brand across the internet. 

  • Social - Twitter, Linkedin, Facebook, Instagram, Tik Tok
  • Other channels such as YouTube

Whoever builds your site, for free or for pay, should at least include SEO setup. 

Make sure it is useful and usable (user experience). No sense in paying for something that not many people can use.

The above is more applicable to local nonprofits and small businesses. If you need to save money, give permission to whoever you hire to use a template. Squarespace and Webflow have some acceptable templates. Other CMSs are available.

If you have a national or global nonprofit or business then doing a usability test on existing assets makes sense to make sure everything is working to high performance.

At this point, my advice would be to hire a professional to build your website. They'll be able to make it closer to something that'll reach your customer's and your goals for the business.

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